Saturday, 23 November 2013


Alice Mary was born safely, three days overdue, on the 12th of November. The labour was so quick that she was born at home. My husband had gone to take Jessica and Reuben to school, on the agreement that we might think about going to the hospital when he got back. But by the time he returned, she had been born.

Having never had a spontaneous labour at term before, I don't think I realised how quickly progress could occur. I am so very grateful that Alice's birth was straightforward and neither of us any the worse for the amateur nature of her delivery.

A strange full circle completed as I caught her head and felt her body slip out, my own scream echoing around my own bedroom. I want to make it mean something, to go from technological innovations and medical interventions to just my own quivering, screaming flesh. But it doesn't mean anything at all, it is only the way things worked out this time.

An ambulance crew and midwives soon descended and the strange, solitary spell was broken.


She's always with me. Irreplaceable. Implacable. The constant at the centre of the equation as other things are added and subtracted. Georgina is the never changing 'c' - always. I'm always waiting for her, she is always dead and so we remain, in solemn stasis, whilst everyone else spins around us in unseemly haste.

I am reading a book, 'Far from The Tree', which is a reflection on how families cope in situations where children are very different from their parents. For instance, where the child is born deaf, with Down's syndrome or homosexual and thus, arguably, becomes part of a subculture that their parents cannot fully enter. It would seem that part of us wishes to, or believes that we will, simply perpetuate ourselves when we have children. That we will reproduce literally.

It seems to me that was never my intention. Perhaps it is the legacy of having a first child who is so very, very different from me? She is dead and I am alive. I will, one day, become like her and thus perpetuate her deadness. She will not inherit any of my qualities or failings. Not for her the dreaded shyness or self doubt. Instead I will inherit her single and defining characteristic.

I think that I take pleasure in the elements of my children that are most at odds with my own character because their difference is . . . . . delightful. Perhaps because I do not much like myself and would not want to see them become a version of me? But Jessica's gregariousness, Reuben's no nonsense staring down of the world and sharp toothiness, Alice's . . . well, who knows as yet. They delight me.


I am back in the strange echoing place of childbirth and newborn. Probably for the final time. I look into my daughter's newborn dark blue eyes and see her sister's. That far away look. And I wonder.

The small, scrawny limbs with their peeling skin, the ache of the fuzzy head and rolling eyes. The mouth that seeks and the hands that pat, pat, pat. She seems unbearably small but I know that she isn't. I wonder, fleetingly, if she might stop breathing. But put the thought from my mind as I can't even start to think it.


"Was she a single baby or a twin?"


"How many other children do you have?"
"Two," he says.
"Three," I say.

He peers at us with some consternation, perky bow-tie suddenly seeming somewhat droop-ish. His hand poised over the keyboard.

"Three," I pipe up decisively. "If you look at the register you'll find three other children. Our eldest daughter died but her birth is registered as she died at three days old."

"Ok. Any stillborn children?"


I fleetingly wish that he had said that he was sorry. But I didn't really expect him to.

And this is where it ends I suppose. There will be no more babies. I am tired. I just hope to keep going, that I am not an absolutely awful mother. That I am not overly harmful.


Drifting in and out of sleep, I hear this song from the radio. It was written by Molly Drake, mother to the famous song writer Nick Drake.

Happiness is like a bird with twenty wings
Try to catch him as he flies
Happiness is like a bird that only sings
When his head is in the skies
You can try to make him walk beside you
You can say the door is open wide
If you grab at him, woe betide you
I know because I've tried
Like a butterfly upon an April morning
Very quickly taking fright
Happiness is come and gone without a warning
Jack-o'-lantern in the night
I will follow him across the meadow
I will follow him across the hill
And if I can catch him I will try to bring you
Why yes, happiness
If I can catch him I will try to bring you
All my love and happiness.

Perhaps it is my imagination but to my mind there is a catch of weariness in those final lines. Because the following isn't always easy or enjoyable. But I follow him, that twenty winged trickster, on behalf of other people.

If I can catch him my dear loves. If I can catch him, I will try . . . . .

Because that is what I want for you all. Even my littlest one who has tried to foil me by dying.

All my love and happiness. Happiness.